Opposition Alleges ‘Fraud’ in Vote Summary Process

Opposition claimed on January 7 that discrepancies have been revealed between actual vote summary protocols of some precincts and figures released by the Central Election Commission (CEC).

Tina Khidasheli of the Republican Party, part of the nine-party opposition collation, backing presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, has alleged there were cases when figures indicated in "original vote summary protocols" had been changed in District Election Commissions in favor of the incumbent candidate.

Khidasheli then presented, what she called, "an original summary protocol" of Batumi's precinct number 73, which showed 205 votes for Levan Gachechiladze and 115 votes for Mikheil Saakashvili. "However, after this protocol passed through the mid-level election administration, which is District Election Commission, figures have been changed. According to new figure Gachechiladze has now 119 votes and Mikheil Saakashvili 550 votes. There are many such cases in Adjara."

There are 76 District Electoral Commissions, each composed of five members, who formally should not be affiliated with political parties. Unlike Precinct Election Commissions (PEC) and CEC, opposition parties have no representatives in DECs.

Levan Tarkhnishvili, the chairman of the Central Election Commission, has dismissed allegations as ludicrous. He said that CEC was posting on its website not only figures, but also jpg files of summary protocols of every precinct. "And there are signatures of all precinct members on those protocols," he said.

Once the counts at a precinct are completed, members of a precinct approve summary protocol with simple majority of votes. A protocol should be signed by all 13 members and if any of them disagrees he, or she should make a special note on the same protocol. Khidasheli, however, maintained that even signatures were counterfeited in the District Election Commissions.

She has also alleged that many provincial precincts, opposition members of the polling stations were intimidated and pressured by the local police and authorities forcing them not to take vote summary protocols. According to the law, not only representatives of candidates or political parties, but observers as well have the right to request copy of summary protocols.

"Our representative struggled to obtain those protocols," Khidasheli said. "While in many cases our representatives were able to take protocols, from many polling stations, especially in Kvemo Kartli region, they have failed to do that because of pressure. So we do not have original protocols through which we would have been able to prove ballot rigging at those precincts. The same has happened in Akhalkalaki, Ninotsminda and in many other precincts of Javakheti regions."

She has showed to journalists 180 ballot papers where number 5 - incumbent candidate Mikheil Saakashvili's number on the ballot papers - where marked. Khidasheli claimed that opposition representatives at one of the polling stations managed "to snatch" these "fake ballot papers" in one of the precincts in Senaki, a town in the western region of Samegrelo. She said that these "fake ballots" were intended for stuffing.

Khidasheli also suggested that in most of the precincts located in the regions predominately populated with ethnic minorities - Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti - voter turnout was "unbelievably high" exceeding 90% "and in some cases turnout was even 100%." In those precincts, she said, incumbent candidate had received over 90% of vote. She said that although opposition had its representatives at every polling station, many of them, especially in the Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti region had to turn a blind eye on many irregularities because of pressure.

Khidasheli also said that it was highly suspicious that number of invalid ballot papers in many precincts of Shida Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti region was extremely low.

"In contrast, only in Mtatsminda - which is the smallest district of Tbilisi - 432 ballot papers were invalidated just because they were filled inaccurately by voters," she said. "There is absolutely different picture in the precincts of Ninotsminda [Samtskhe-Javakheti region] where only one, or maximum two ballot papers were invalidated; this means that voters there should have been almost 100% accurate. This again indicates that faked, pre-marked ballot papers were used... Vano Merabishvili [the interior minister], who is native of that region [Samtskhe-Javakheti] was in charge of these falsifications."

She also stressed that the nine-party opposition coalition did not claim its candidate won most of the votes in Kvemo Kartli or Samtskhe-Javakheti regions. "Not at all; we are not saying that. The only thing we are saying that Saakashvili has stolen some of our votes there and we are not going to tolerate that," Khidasheli said.

She said that the opposition intended to challenge each case of violation in court. According to election code the Central Election Commission can not summarize election results before the completion of the disputes in courts.

"We are determined to struggle for each and every vote. We will react on each and every case of violation and we will not allow Saakashvili and CEC to falsify the Georgian people's vote," she said.

With the incumbent candidate, Saakashvili, according CEC results, narrowly avoiding run-off, every single vote may become decisive in a standoff between the authorities and opposition, whose major goal at this stage is to have a second round of polls in two weeks.

Levan Tarkhnishvili, the CEC chairman, however, said late on January 6 that there was almost no chance for the run-off. He said that Saakashvili would garner over 52% of votes.

He explained that the figures were based on information received from almost every precinct throughout Georgia. Although some of this information was based on official vote tallies sent by the precincts, Tarkhnishvili admitted, that some of it had been conveyed verbally by precinct members - with no official vote summary protocols having actually been sent.

The election code, however, reads: "Election administration officials shall be prohibited from making announcements on the preliminary results of the elections, if those results are not placed on the [CEC] web-site under the established procedures." ( Civil )

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